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December 12, 2021

Year 2 - Week 15 (December 12 - 18)

Day 1 (Monday)

Isaiah 9:1-7

As we approach Christmas, we will read one of the prophecies of the birth of the Lord, from the prophecies of Isaiah. The prophet begins by talking about the region of the nation of Israel that is falling into darkness in his own time, the northern region of Galilee, which was first part of Israel conquered by other nations after they abandoned the worship of the Most High God. He is saying that a great light will dawn there, which of course is fulfilled when Jesus goes there with Joseph and Mary after they return from Egypt, and then he goes on to prophecy the Lord’s birth directly.

The Righteous Reign of the Coming King

9 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.

4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should point out, of course, that the birth of God Himself become human is very clear in verses 6 through 7, with the clear statement that the Lord’s birth is the beginning of the healing and transformation of the entire world. We should note, however, that the previous verses, and especially verses 4 and 5, about the Lord overthrowing the oppressors, is PRECISELY a prophecy of what we have seen Jesus doing in the Gospel of Mark so far, and especially with the driving out of the demons around the sea of Galilee. He is delivering His people, and establishing peace and justice and righteousness for them, and for the entire world.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Life of St. Spyridon

On December 12th, the Church celebrates the feastday of St. Spyridon, who lived during the last days of persecution, and attended the Council of Nicaea. He is one of the most commemorated bishop saints in the Church, and is very much beloved, especially among the Greek Orthodox faithful throughout the world.

Life of St. Spyridon

The island of Cyprus was both the birthplace and the place where this glorious saint served the Church. Spyridon was born of simple parents, farmers, and he remained simple and humble until his death. He married in his youth and had children, but when his wife died he devoted himself completely to the service of God.

Because of his exceptional piety, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Trymithous. Yet even as a bishop he did not change his simple way of living, handling his livestock and cultivating his land himself. He used very little of the fruits of his labor for himself; instead, he distributed a greater share to the needy.

He manifested great miracles by God’s power: he brought down rain in time of drought, stopped the flow of a river, raised several people from the dead, healed Emperor Constantius of a grave illness, saw and heard angels of God, foresaw future events, discerned the secrets of men’s hearts, converted many to the true Faith, and did much else.

He took part in the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (325), and he brought many heretics back to Orthodoxy by his simple and clear expositions of the Faith as well as by his mighty miracles.

He was so simply dressed that once, when he wanted to enter the imperial court at the invitation of the emperor, a soldier, thinking that he was a beggar, struck him on the face. Meek and guileless, Spyridon turned the other cheek to him.

He glorified God through many miracles, and was of benefit, not only to many individuals but also to the whole Church of God. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 348. His miracle-working relics rest on the island of Corfu, and even today they glorify God with many miracles.

Reflection From His Life

St. Spyridon once sold a hundred goats to a merchant at an agreed price, and the saint told the buyer to lay down the money. The buyer, knowing that Spyridon himself never counted money, handed over enough money for ninety-nine goats and hid the money for one. Spyridon then counted out a hundred goats for him. But when the merchant and his servants drove off the goats, one of them returned bleating. He drove it off, but it returned again. And so the goat continually returned to the enclosure, not wanting to go with the other goats. The saint then whispered into the merchant’s ear: “Observe, my son: this animal is not doing this in vain. Did you perhaps withhold her price?” The merchant became ashamed and acknowledged his sin. As soon as he paid the amount he had concealed, the goat immediately joined the other goats.

On another occasion, some thieves entered Spyridon’s sheepfold. .When they had seized as many sheep as they wanted, they tried to leave the sheepfold, but an invisible force nailed them to the ground, and they were unable to move. At dawn, the bishop came to his sheepfold. Seeing the thieves, he reproached them mildly and instructed them to strive in the future to live by their own labors and not by thievery. He then took a sheep and gave it to them, saying, “Take this for your trouble, so that your all-night vigil not be in vain,” and he dismissed them in peace.

From https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/12/saint-spyridon-wonderworker-of.html

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should point out both the extreme humility of St. Spyridon, as shown in his accepting the mockery and beating of the soldiers when visiting the emperor, but also his holiness and discernment, as shown in the two stories at the end, about the sale of the goats and the theft of the sheep. He knew exactly what was being done, and expressed a care for the soul of the cheating merchant and the thieves, urging and drawing them along to repentance.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

Mark 5:21-43

Last time, we saw Jesus and His disciples on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, in the country of the Gerasenes, where He delivered the man possessed by the legion of unclean spirits. This time, as He returns to the Judean side of the sea, we will see two people come to Him for help.

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him.

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that, in both of these healings, Jesus doesn’t seek out the people, but they rather seek Him out. We have seen previously that sometimes Jesus seeks out those who need to be delivered, as He did with the demon-possessed man last week, but this time, the people who need help seek Him out. What He says to the woman who touched the hem of His garment, that her faith has made her well, is a way of pointing out that she has been saved because she came to Him with purpose and intent, entrusting herself to Him. The same holds for the little girl, although in this case it is the faith, the purpose and intent of the father, that entrusts her to Jesus. We need to understand that in our lives, if we wish to receive the blessings of God, we also need to approach Him with purpose and intent, entrusting ourselves to Him with steadfast faithfulness.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?